Have you ever had the experience where you went for a good walk and felt really good after?  Or you were kicking the ball and running around after the kids and felt good about yourself?  What’s going on here?  How does exercise improve mood and mental health?  It turns out that exercise is excellent for your mood and mental health.

Exercising, in a nutshell, improves your mental health and overall health, physically and emotionally. It also enhances your quality of life because it opens more opportunities to stay active and healthy (and sometimes social e.g. working out with a buddy).

Not only that but exercise helps to lower stress levels and keep brain function and structure at its optimal level.   Let’s see why exercise is so important to mental health.

 

Why Is It Important to Exercise?

 

It is so important to exercise not only for the health benefits associated with it but also for help improve mood and mental health.

The short- and long-term benefits of regular physical activity cannot be discounted in terms of mental health.   Running, for instance, not only engages the major muscles in the body but also aids in the release of  Endorphins (feel good hormones), making you instantly feel good, sometimes called the runner’s high.

Not only that but exercise is good for overall health,  It reduces your risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure and blood cholesterol level, and feel more energised.

 

Why Does Exercise Improve Mood?

 

Briefly, exercise enhances mood directly because it promotes the release of endorphins from the brain, positively affecting your mood and making you feel calmer which helps improve mental health.

It also helps reduce depressive symptoms and anxiety and improve self-confidence.  

Regular activity also boosts brain power and energy because it stimulates blood circulation and keeps the heart pumping more oxygenated blood. Thus, it can deliver more nutrients and oxygen to the cells and the brain, resulting to better concentration and clarity.

 

The Chemicals and Hormones That Exercise Produces and Importance for Mood

 

The following is the list of hormones and chemicals that exercise can produce

 

  • Endorphins: Physical activities release these neurotransmitters, which help regulate mood. They work as pain relievers that your body makes as a reaction to discomfort or stress.   Exercising regularly, their levels can increase, and make you feel even better.
  • Serotonin: Working both as a neurotransmitter and hormone, serotonin helps regulate bodily functions, including appetite, digestion, memory and cognitive ability. More importantly, it also regulates your mood.
  •  Oxytocin: It increases with activities like having sex, kissing and cuddling, and other physical affection.  This love hormone is vital for breastfeeding and childbirth as well as bonding in relationships, trust and empathy.
  • Dopamine: Also called the feel-good hormone, dopamine is linked with motor system function, memory and learning along with pleasurable sensations.

Summing up, physical activities can affect the levels of these chemicals and hormones in the brain positively.

 

The Types of Exercise to Do

 

There are number of exercise that you can do.  And no, you don’t need to kill yourself by running 5 km to get some benefit.  Below is a list of exercises that you might like to do to help improve your mood.

 

Walking (or running)

 If you want to have the time to think things over and process them, engage in running! It can help you analyse and understand things better and make you feel happier in the process.

Walking or running doesn’t just help you manage weight but also improves mental health.  It also opens new opportunities to be social and connect to more people. So, don’t think twice! Engage in a sprint or jog session and up the intensity by a notch.

 

Yoga

Yoga connects the body, mind and soul and works much better if combined with meditation and talk therapy.    And for people with anxiety disorders, it helps them look into their psyche, their mind. It is understood that it gives them what they need emotionally, mentally and physically. 

And lastly, yoga doesn’t just promote proper breathing but also helps create a holistic health and wellbeing.

 

Boxing

Release your anger and stress by hitting a punchbag because it serves as an outlet for frustration, aggression and other negative thoughts that promote healing and empowering.  To release more endorphins, engage in an intense session by doing short but sharp punching rounds and then rest.

 

Pilates

Mastering the art of Pilates and focusing on it and your feelings in practising mindfulness, which is beneficial for mental health.  This activity also promotes relaxation and stress reduction, too.

 

Resistance training

Weightlifting doesn’t only tone muscles and make a better physique but also curb anxiety and build confidence. Low intensity resistance training also reduces anxiety and depression as well as decreases fatigue.  And no women, you won’t bulk up like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Women produce lean lines of muscle and tone. 

 

Types of Exercise To Do While In Quarantine Because of Corona Virus

 

With Corona Virus taking hold across the world and everyone being confined to their homes, it can be really difficult to exercise.

However there are many apps that you can use that require only your living room to exercise in.  Here’s a list of some apps that you might like to download:

  • Sweat App
  • Glo (yoga & pilates)
  • Les Mills on Demand
  • Freeletics
  • Nike Training Club (Free)
  • Minute Workout (Free)
  • Youtube (Free)

The Exertion Level of Exercise That Helps with Mood

 

To get the most out of exercise for mood benefits, you can engage in intense, short bursts of exercises (or high intensity interval training – HIIT).  These vigorous activities, such as sprint running or cycling, can improve your mental health.

The best exercise is when you are breathing heavy but can still carry on a conversation.  This is not only good for mood but is perfect for managing your weight as this is also the level where maximum fat burn occurs. 

[But of course, you should consult your doctor first for his go signal before engaging in an exercise activity. If you’re a beginner, you can start with small steps. Engage in a moderate intensity exercise that can also lower depressive symptoms, and then up your performance as you progress.]

 

How long  and how much to exercise to help with mood?

 

The guideline for exercising for health is 45 mins.  But exercising for at least 30 minutes per session can improve anxiety and depression.    If you don’t have this time to spare yet, exercising for at least 10 minutes per session is a great start, too.  Even if it’s just incidental exercise like taking the stairs instead of the lift.

To help with mood it exercise three to five times a week will be of benefit. 

 

Summary

 

So you can see how exercise improves mood and mental health.  Exercise can promote all kinds of positive brain changes, including reduced inflammation, neural growth and better brain activity patterns that lead to improved mental health and a better sense of well-being.  And most importantly, exercise also serves as a healthy distraction for a brain break and a quiet time that stops the negative thought cycle that feeds depression. But for the best results, stick with and exercise consistently for its lasting mental health benefits.

 

 

Disclaimer: This article is for reference only. It should not replace or be used as a medical advice.

Kristin is a NLP Practitioner and Health Coach helping people with mood and mental health.  She has bipolar disorder.  In the past she had an attempted suicide and two nervous breakdowns.  But through technques to improve mood and control emotions she hasn’t had any symptoms of mental illness for 10 years.  Now she teaches her method to other people so they can also get over overwhelm.

To work with her click here

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